In 1837, children’s writer, Han’s Christian Anderson published one of his classic and most famous children’s stories, “The Emperor’s New Clothing.” It has endured the test of time, and for a fairytale, it still has much to say about the human condition. It’s the story of a vain emperor who loved clothing too much. He wore nothing but the finest apparel and suits all the time. His love of fine apparel exceeded all other loves, even more than ruling his realm and caring for his people. The emperor would change clothes almost hourly, and his tailors were only too willing to oblige.
But like moths to a flame, it’s not surprising that the emperor’s appetite for fashion would eventually attract two con-artists posing as tailors, saying they could make the finest suit the emperor would ever wear. They claimed that not only were their colors and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of their special cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid or ignorant. This offer seemed too good for the emperor to pass up, and so he began paying them huge sums of money.
Night and day these swindlers worked in their quarters, supposedly creating the fabric. One day, the emperor wanted to know how they were getting along, so he sent his most trusted adviser. When the adviser arrived, both the swindlers happily invited him to come in and approve the excellent pattern and the beautiful colors being woven together. But the looms appeared to be empty. The poor old adviser stared as hard as he dared, but he couldn’t see a single stitch. “Heaven have mercy,” he thought. “These men are crooks, but I can’t say a thing because everyone might think I am backward and stupid and unfit to be the emperor’s adviser. It would never do to let on that I can’t see the cloth.”
“Don’t hesitate to tell us what you think of it,” said one of the weavers.
“Oh, it’s beautiful! It’s enchanting,” said the old adviser as he peered through his spectacles. “Such a pattern, what colors!” I’ll be sure to tell the Emperor how delighted I am with it.” And so he did.
The next week the king sent another trusted adviser and the same thing happened. Everyone was too afraid to admit that they couldn’t see anything at all. They were too afraid that everyone would think them stupid and unfit.
Again and again, the king sent an adviser and again and again he got the same report. The fabric was said to be beautiful, exquisite, and perfect for a king.
Before long, the clothes were said to be finished and the king was eager to try them on. When he arrived the swindlers were each holding their hands in the air as if they were holding up a suit jacket. “If your Imperial Majesty will condescend to take your clothes off,” said the swindlers, “we will help you with your new ones here in front of the long mirror. The clothes are as light as a spider web. You’ll probably think you’re wearing nothing at all, but that’s what makes them so fine and majestic.”
The Emperor undressed and the swindlers pretended to put his new clothes on him, one garment after another. “How well Your Majesty’s new clothes look. Aren’t they becoming!” He heard on all sides, “That pattern, so perfect! Those colors, so suitable! It is a magnificent outfit.” The emperor pretended to regard his costume with the greatest interest. But, squint as he might, he couldn’t see a thing. Yet everyone else seemed to see it just fine. The noblemen who were to carry his train stooped low and reached for the floor as if they were picking up his mantle. Then they pretended to lift and hold it high. Neither of them acknowledged the fact that they had nothing to hold.
So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, “Oh, how fine are the Emperor’s new clothes! Don’t they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!” Nobody would confess that there was nothing to see for that would have proved him stupid and a backward fool. And so the whole kingdom applauded and exclaimed over the parade of nonsense. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success. Everyone seemed to love it.
That is, until a child spoke up and said, “He hasn’t got anything on! He’s naked.”
I’m sure there are many lessons and moral that can be drawn from Anderson’s parable, but sometimes I feel like our present circumstances in America today are a lot like the emperor’s village. How shameful that a king should parade around naked and no one would call him out for it, everyone so afraid of what others might think that nobody dares speak the plain truth. Indeed, it’s really scary when everyone pretends that what is clearly wrong is actually very proper and right.
There are many today who say that freedom is when anything goes and everything becomes permissible–that’s not freedom, it’s anarchy. While today our culture continues to be successful on the outside and we still have a semblance of law and order, there is most certainly anarchy against God’s Word. What is good and right according to God’s Word is disparaged and scorned –the Bible’s teachings on marriage, family, sexuality, and the value of life, itself. And it’s easy for those of us who believe that God’s Word is truth to think that we are in the minority. It’s easy for Christians to think that we just have to stand by and pretend everything is okay while godless philosophies and ideologies are crammed down our throats. It’s easy to think that ordinary Christians like us can’t make a difference.
But none of that is true. We are not alone. We do not have to be silent. And we can most certainly make a purpose-driven difference.
We’re almost done with our 30 days of Prayer and Purpose. Tomorrow is day 30! I hope that the last several weeks have helped you to see God’s purpose for your life and for the church. This world needs people who speak the truth and serve the Lord, no matter what. In even the most ordinary ways, God has given us abundant opportunities to help guide, encourage, and love those around us, and this work always makes a difference. Don’t give up on doing it!
The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
I urge you to be vigilant and strive to grow each day in your study of the word and your commitment to your church. God will not fail to accomplish His purposes through us.
What’s your plan to continue in God’s Word each day and each week? Write it down and make it happen.
Lord Jesus, You have chosen me and appointed me to be the bearer of Your light and love. That happened on the day I was baptized into the triune name of God and connected to Your holy death and resurrection (Romans 6). Help me, Lord, to be mindful of that every day. When I watch the evening news and find myself angry at the wickedness of this world, help me have love, joy, peace and patience. When I am in conflict with my neighbor give me longsuffering and kindness. When I am overcome with temptation to live contrary to Your holy Word, give me self-control.
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, and Self Control—these fruits of the Spirit are what I ask for today, Lord. You have said to me, Ask and it will be given… Seek and ye shall find… Knock and the door shall be opened… and so I ask, Lord! In the name of Jesus give me the strength to remember who I am in Christ, help me see the ways that I might serve you, and fill me with the power to act.
In Jesus name. Amen.